17/12/2018
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The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Caravan

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Caravan Magazine helps you with our ultimate guide to buying a caravan for the first time. Here's how

It's a fact that very few caravanners select the right caravan to suit their specific needs, first-time.

Cost, condition or style often draws wannabe caravanners to make the wrong buying choice, the first time. That means many of them end up swapping their first caravan within a year.

This guide gives you all the information needed to make the right choice - first time.

Let's start with the 'fixed criteria': cost (new or used), weights for towing and size for storage. After that, we'll move onto 'subjective' factors like layout and style.

The Key Questions for Buying a Caravan

What's your budget?

If you're paying cash to buy a caravan, the answer is simple. But, if you want to buy using a finance plan, it's more complicated.

You can find potential finance deals online, through a dealership, or at a show. Look at a few options for comparison.

For finance packages, work out what monthly payments you can afford. Then, base your caravan purchase on multiplying that up over, say, three or five years. Remember to factor in interest payments. Unless you get a 0% finance deal, your total buying power is not a simple 'months-times-payments' calculation. You need to allow for admin charges too.

Cash or finance?

Years ago, cash was king. Then came the advent of the finance deal. People perceived that a dealer would offset some of the extra profit they make from a finance package against the cost of the caravan.

These days, our industry insider tells us: "We create every deal on its own merits. We don't discriminate one way or the other between cash or credit buyers."

When to buy a caravan

When you buy a caravan can have a significant effect on its price. You might find attractive offers at the end of the summer season, as dealers make room for next year's models, which they expect to arrive in autumn. Help them shift their old stock in return for a better price or deal. We've seen savings of up to £3500 on a new £20,000 tourer.

A new or used caravan?

Will you look at new caravans, nearly-new or older? Newer models will incorporate all the latest bells and whistles. You can have fun for less money. Find used examples that have had a long, but well-cared-for life. That's providing you check them over thoroughly for damp ingress, in particular.

Buy a caravan from private seller or dealership?

You can make significant savings by buying from a private seller. However, as savings increase, so do the risks. Here's some essential info to help you make an informed decision.

Advantages of buying from a caravan retailer

If you buy from a reputable caravan retailer, you can be sure that:

  • you are paying the market price for any given tourer
  • they have checked the caravan if it is stolen/has outstanding finance
  • you will get a warranty (unless a caravan is ancient)
  • they will display the caravan's correct year of manufacture
  • they will carry out a gas safety check out before delivery
  • lots of advice is available from a dealer
  • many dealers offer free starter packs with selected caravans

Using a reputable dealer is essential. Buying from a 'pop-up' caravan dealership on an old petrol forecourt could be just as risky as buying privately, and you may not make the financial savings either.

Advantages of buying privately

  • You can get more caravan for your money by buying privately. Prices could easily be 10-20% cheaper than a dealership.
  • You may find a specific van you're after, which may not be available at dealerships
  • You get to meet the owner and can quickly gauge what type of person they are and how they've looked after the van.

Note: Governed by the principle of 'caveat emptor' governs private purchases – buyer beware, so you have no legal comeback should the van not be as advertised. Consumer Rights Act, 2015

To minimise any potential problems

CRIS certification sticker

  • Meet the vendor at their home to view the caravan, not in an anonymous car park or service station.
  • Undertake a CRiS check on the tourer. cris.co.uk/cris-check/
  • Check all ownership and service paperwork.
  • Consider having the caravan checked over by an AWS-accredited technician. Expect to pay up to £200 for this service
  • Give the caravan a thorough 'once-over', including all the electrics when plugged into the mains and on leisure battery. Check tyre age and wear
  • If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is! Do not involve yourself in sales of caravans which 'are abroad at the moment' – this is a scam.

Search through over 2000 caravans immediately by visiting outandaboutlive.co.uk/caravans/for-sale/caravans

 What can my car tow?

towing a caravan

Work out what caravan your car can safely tow. Don't rely on a salesperson to advise you correctly.

Towing capacity

The caravanning clubs advise that novice caravanners should not tow caravans with an MTPLM (Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass) exceeding 85% of the kerbweight of the towcar.

Experienced towcar drivers can push this to 100%, but never more.

You can find the caravan's MTPLM on a plate near the door. Usually, you can find a car's kerbweight on a sticker in the door jamb.

MTPLM sticker

TowMatch

To find which caravans you can tow with your car, use Caravan magazine's free, online Towmatch tool.

What can you tow with your licence?

If you passed your driving test before 1 January 1997, you could drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8.25 tonnes maximum authorised mass (MAM).

If you passed your driving test on or after 1 January 1997, and have an ordinary category B (car) licence, you can drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 3500kg MAM, providing the MAM of the trailer doesn't exceed the unladen mass of the towing vehicle.

For anything more substantial, you need to pass a category B+E driving test.

For driving licences obtained on or after 19 January 2013, drivers passing a category B (car and small vehicle) test can tow small trailers weighing no more than 750kg. Or, you can pull trailers weighing more than 750kg, where the combined weight of the towing vehicle and the trailer is less than 3500kg. For anything more substantial, you need to pass a category B+E driving test.

If aged 70 or over, there are further towing restrictions affecting heavier outfits.

Caravan size for storage and ferries

Finally, think about the length of the caravan you'll buy and where you plan to store it. The caravan's length is particularly important if you intend to keep it at home to save on secure-site storage costs. Or, if you wish to minimise the ferry costs when taking it abroad.

Caravan layout

How many berths do you need? Will you have guests from time to time? How do you use your caravan? Do you like to cook a lot? Do you only use site facilities or do you prefer small sites without showers?

Answering these, and dozens of other layout questions will lead you making the right choice.

Key questions to ask yourself to help choose the right layout:

  • How many berths do I need?
  • Are the beds long enough?
  • Does the kitchen work for us?
  • Is the fridge big enough?
  • Are there enough cooking options?
  • Does the storage work for me?
  • Do I need a full-sized washroom or will a combined-unit suffice?
  • Will I accommodate guests?
  • How much time will I spend inside the caravan? Is the lounge big enough?
  • Do you want fixed beds? Or, will you make one up every night?

Fixed or make-up beds?

fixed beds in a caravan

Fixed beds may sound like a good, convenient idea. But bear in mind that you can only use fixed beds for sleeping. Fixed beds can seem like an extravagant use of space. Some, including many of the new mid-washroom layouts, may suit smaller people, too!

You might also want to consider twin beds rather than a double. Some caravan couples choose a four-berth van either to take the grandchildren or for more space. And, they have the possibility of leaving the beds made up at one end while having lounging space at the other.

Some caravanners prefer twin singles, which they can put together to make an enormous double bed. During the daytime, this can offer more sitting, eating and entertaining space.

Twin or single-axle caravan?

People believe twin-axle caravans are more stable when towing than single-axle ones. That's good, but, you might need a heavier and more powerful towcar.

Also, factor in the extra tyre, servicing and wheel-lock costs. And the fact that you may need to invest in a motor mover to shift your caravan around. These days, there's an excellent selection of family-sized, single-axle tourers.

Grab a dealer-special caravan

dealer special caravan

Dealer-special caravans are regular models from a manufacturer's range, which an individual dealership specs-up with a host of extras. These could be high-security locks and tracker systems, alloy wheels, caravan stability control, better soft furnishings, improved interior lighting, extractor fan, or heavy-duty corner steadies, for example.

Dealers rename the range, and it is exclusive to them. The result is a small price uplift compared with the typical cost of providing these extras on a standard van. For example, you may get £3000 of extras for just £1200.

Visit a show to buy a caravan

visit a caravan show

Going to a caravan show means you will have the advantage of many competing manufacturers and dealers in one place. It makes it easier to walk to a competitor displaying nearby to compare caravans easily. You can also get some attractive 'show price' offers or extra equipment, free.

Note: Bear in mind that the further the dealer is from your home, the more difficult it may be to resolve any future mechanical problems. Local manufacturers' agents will not always welcome other dealers' guarantee work, as you might expect of car dealerships.

Caravan specification

Spare wheels

caravan spare wheel

Does the van have an underslung spare wheel? Not all do. Don't get caught without one.

Dual-fuel hob in a caravan

caravan kitchen hob

Many modern caravans have a microwave oven, but not all have a dual-fuel hob, i.e., one electric ring and three gas. This familiar set-up can save a lot of expensive bottled gas, and gives you an option should one system fail or run out.

Towing stability

For improved stability, look for a van with the excellent AL-KO ATC, anti-snaking system, and even shock absorbers. It gives extra peace of mind on the road. You can have these fitted, retrospectively.

towing stability system

Which construction system?

Over the past decade caravan construction has moved from the traditional timber, 'glue-and-screw' method, to patented building techniques. Examples are Bailey's AluTech; Coachman's ABC; Swift's SMART and Elddis' SoLiD.

These methods often eliminate timber and screws from the build, so any moisture entering the caravan should not cause rot. They are not yet by any means foolproof, but they do enable manufacturers to include extended water-ingress guarantees, providing you abide by the makers' annual damp-check routines.

Using this information, you can now produce a shortlist of suitable models!

What's next? – Caravan accessories

Now, we look at caravan accessories and optional extras, before negotiating the best possible deal with the seller.

What accessories do I need for a touring caravan? Could I 'wangle' them into a deal?

Motor mover?

motor mover for a caravan

Motor movers are popular with owners who store their vans in tight spaces at home, those who don't want to push their caravan around or manoeuvre into narrow pitches on a site, and show-offs!

The best motor movers offer precise and safe manoeuvring. But they are expensive and, at around 35kg (single axle), they're heavy.

Like all optional extras, you must deduct their weight from your caravan's payload. If you can manoeuvre confidently, you may find it's best to save the weight and cost.

Some dealerships offer a mover as an incentive to buy a specific caravan.

Caravan security

caravan security

Security is vital, and caravan insurers love it.

A 'chassis-mounted' wheel lock system, like AL-KO Secure, as well as a high-security hitch lock, are the minimum most insurers will expect.

Always choose recognised makes, ideally ones with Sold Secure approval (i.e., tested by security experts).

Alarms and tracker units should also reduce your insurance premium, but remember to budget for the annual tracking-service subscription after the initial free period.

12-volt leisure battery

12 volt leisure battery

One area not to skimp is on your 'leisure battery'. In rare cases, you might get one with the caravan. More usually, you will need to purchase one, and cheap leisure batteries often end up costing you more in the long run.

Ideally, go for a known brand like Banner, Varta, Numax, Yuasa, Odyssey or Platinum. And buy from an established, specialist retailer such as batterystore.co.uk.

Proper 12-volt leisure batteries have thicker internal plates to cope with deeper discharge and a more significant number of charging cycles.

Banner Batteries' products are good, highly recommended and cost little more than the standard batteries stocked by caravan accessory dealers. For the highest capacity, go for the largest unit that your battery compartment can hold. The measurement is in ampere-hours (Ah), and 90Ah or 100Ah is typical, though some motor movers may require 110ah as minimum power output.

Mains leads

caravan mains leads

Your new caravan will typically come with a standard 25-metre mains connection cable. A cable this long should be enough to reach any pitch on a British caravan site.

13-amp three-pin adapter

If you tour on the Continent, we recommend buying an additional 10-metre length. A waterproof, plastic, snap-on cover for the connection is a good idea, too

Please note, to avoid excessive heat build-up, unwind the entire coiled cable before use, and spread any spare cable under the van in loose loops.

If you store your van at home, a 13-amp, three-pin adapter to fit domestic sockets will enable you to power your van up for vacuuming, battery charging, general maintenance and fridge-freezing before loading.

12V caravan TV

A specially-designed 12-volt television is a bit pricier than the equivalent domestic portable TV. But, its design enables it to cope with voltage fluctuations when used on 12 volts. A 12-volt TV is a sensible purchase unless you are going to use it exclusively on mains.

In areas of good TV reception, the standard Status-type of rising, rotating aerial built into your caravan will be adequate.

However, some good camping sites in weak-reception areas provide a standard coaxial socket for each pitch on the electric hook-up post. It is up to customers to bring their own 25-metre coaxial aerial cable. Your TV licence from home covers using your TV in a touring caravan.

Waterworks

caravan waste water outlet pipes

Traditional caravanners trundle their fresh water back to their caravan in an 'Aquaroll' and push a wheeled waste container under the van.

Also, we recommend keeping a five-litre water carrier in the caravan for drinking water, so it is always fresh.

You will also need to buy some flexible pipe to pop onto the waste pipes on the caravan. You'll need a two-into-one, Y-shaped adaptor to go into the grey-waste container.

Gas supply

Modern caravans have a gas regulator suitable for all types of gas. Manufacturers mount them on the wall of the gas locker. You connect to the bottle using an interchangeable gas pigtail, supplied by your dealer.

Since these come with different connectors, to suit Calor butane, Calor propane or Campingaz bottles, the dealer will need to know your preferences. At a slight increase in cost, you also have the option of a special deterioration-resistant, stainless-steel pigtail. And the convenience of a large red knob at the bottle end so that you won't need to use a gas spanner.

If you wish to use your caravan all year, we suggest using propane gas, which, unlike butane, works well in sub-zero temperatures.

What size gas bottle?

gas bottles in a caravan

Generally, the larger the bottle, the cheaper, the gas is (per kg) on refill. But the heavier the bottles, the more likely they may cause a noseweight problem if the gas locker's at the front of the caravan.

If capital expense is no object, then bottles you can refill relatively cheaply yourself at fuel stations may be worthwhile. Filling up at fuel stations is particularly useful if you make long trips abroad. UK bottles are not exchangeable overseas. That is apart from the tiny Campingaz 907 cylinder, which is expensive to change.

On the subject of gas, you need to think about fire safety. All caravans now come with a smoke alarm. But, ideally, you need to add a 1kg AFFF fire extinguisher, a fire blanket and, preferably, a carbon monoxide detector.

Towing mirrors

towing mirror

Extension wing mirrors are a legal requirement when towing a caravan. We recommend the slightly more-pricey, clamp-type mirrors, which screw securely to the top, front lip of the wing mirror casing.

Ready to buy a caravan?

Now you have a shortlist of one or two caravans; it's time to check out suitable dealers, within a reasonable distance of home. Contact them initially by internet or by phone to establish price and availability.

Prices can vary enormously between suppliers. The results will suggest where you should best visit for a face-to-face negotiation, to get the most attractive deal.

Remember to ask early on, what they will include in any sale? Leisure battery? Gas bottle? Spare wheel? Electric cable? External water pipe/pump? Aquaroll? Waster carrier? If you have to buy all these as extras, you could easily add £500 to the price!

As a new caravanner, you will not have a part-exchange. No caravan to exchange should be worth a substantial reduction.

Experienced caravanners may have a van to sell and will have the dilemma: whether to take the easy way out, and part-exchange, or have the hassle of selling privately to realise more money.

It is common for prospective buyers with a part-exchange to select the dealer who offers the best part exchange figure for their old van. But actually, what they need to know is this part-exchange figure deducted from the cost of the new van. The industry calls this the 'amount to exchange'.

We recommend asking for an 'amount to exchange' figure from the beginning… then negotiate hard on that figure. Then compare with the same calculation from other dealers.

You may find it's worthwhile to put your van up for sale on Caravan magazine's website. You might sell it privately at a significantly better price. You'll also then be in a better position to negotiate a special 'no part-exchange' deal.

What is the best price?

When the time comes to ask the dealer about its best price, they may ask what (potentially expensive) extras you would like. The extras could include items including a motor mover, awning, solar panels, leisure battery and gas bottles.

For simplicity and transparency, except for significant items like the motor mover, which you might want immediately and needs dealer fitting, we advise leaving them out of the calculation initially.

Once you have pushed for the dealer's 'best price', you can offer to buy the caravan. Ensure the dealers throw in one or more of your wish-list of extras. Your extras won't cost the dealer what it would cost you, because they will get it at trade price.

Many dealers will offer new buyers a gold discount card or similar, which you could then use to buy any immediate essentials outside the deal. In basic terms, keep the agreement as simple as possible.

Look before you sign

Having agreed the best deal and a suitable handover date, the dealer will offer the order form to sign. Please do not sign until you have read ALL the small print and deleted anything unreasonable or unacceptable.

Naturally, the dealer will ask you to pay, say, a £1000 deposit. We strongly recommend you do use your credit card. Using your credit card protects not only and your deposit, but also the whole purchase cost of the caravan.

Even a big caravan dealer could go out of business between taking our order and supplying it. Using your card makes the credit card company jointly responsible, with the supplying dealer, for any defects in your new van.

While you are at the dealer's premises, ask for a copy of its extended guarantee. The guarantee will probably be an independent insurance arrangement, rather than one from the manufacturer.

It could cost around £400 for years four, five and six, and will be more limited in its scope. You need plenty of time to study the small print and exclusions to decide if it is worth the substantial outlay.


Preparing for your new arrival

In this section, we'll show you how to use the delivery time to make preparations for a smooth pick-up. Plus, we'll cover the first time you will use your new caravan. Finally, let's consider what the legal position in the unlikely event that things go seriously wrong.

There are many things to plan while awaiting delivery of your new caravan. Get it right, and everything will come together for that fab first night away.

Where will I keep my van?

caravan storage

If you are planning to keep your van on a storage site, you can reserve your place. Though it is statistically riskier, some prefer keeping their caravan at home, as it saves money and makes loading and DIY more convenient.

The law does allow you to keep a caravan at home unless there is a local covenant preventing it. Your neighbours may not like it though!

Caravan in a garage

If you can't store your caravan at home, we recommend specialist caravan storage facilities, particularly those with CaSSOA gold ratings. These will have all the best security features needed to keep your tourer safe and secure, and, storing there, could bag you an insurance discount.

Insurance solutions

Insurance is not a legal requirement, but we highly recommend it. Your premium will depend on:

  • Your caravan's value
  • Where you keep the van/postcode
  • Whether you have earned any no-claims bonus
  • What security systems/features it has
  • If it's a new van, would you like 'market value' or 'new for old' cover?
  • Whether you are a member of either of the UK's two major clubs, the Caravan & Motorhome Club or Camping & Caravanning Club
  • The equipment and contents covered
  • Whether you require legal cover
  • If you need protection for foreign travel

All policies incorporate an excess, but, generally, offer good discounts for an additional voluntary excess. As you are unlikely to want to make small claims against your policy, you might as well save some cost by increasing the excess to the point where you would want to claim in the event of damage.

Maximise your insurance premium discounts

A series of typical caravan insurance quotes could range from £550 down to £198. The cheapest quote may still include all the features and extras you require, but it gives substantial cumulative discounts for:

  • Security features
  • Electronic anti-snaking device
  • Several years of no-claims discount
  • A higher voluntary excess

With some quotes to hand now is a great time to haggle and play one insurance company off against another for a better deal, as, generally, they build in plenty of 'extra profit' to the initial quote.

Whatever you do, do not sign up for automatic renewal at the end of the year. You must renegotiate or change companies. Insurance companies have the irritating habit of trying to charge existing clients more than new customers. This practice often results in substantial and unwelcome premium rises.

Join a club

Caravan ClubFor most people, club membership is a good idea and quickly pays for itself. In addition to organising rallies all over the country, both main clubs run their sites and control many certified locations or certified sites (CL/CSs). The CL/CSs are small, cheap, five-van-max sites.

These CL/CS sites are often on farms and have basic facilities. But, mains power is increasingly common. The clubs also offer advice, breakdown cover and insurance to members and often arrange ferry crossings at a discount.

With the Clubs, you are a member, not just a customer. Many members believe the service and back-up you receive is often better than from private companies.

If you are planning a continental trip out of the primary season, check out the ACSI Camping Card. The card provides significant discounts on thousands of highly-rated sites.

Do a towing course

Both Clubs offer tow-training courses which we can't recommend highly enough. These will quickly instil you with all the knowledge and confidence needed to tow successfully and safely. The best and most crucial £150 you'll spend as you enter the world of caravanning.

Find out more about towing and tow courses here!

caravan towing course

Check your towbar and car electrics

If your car does not yet have a towbar and the necessary electrics on it, consider all the options.

Many towbars come with a bolt-on flange towball. With these, it's worth paying more for an AL-KO ball. The AL-KO ball provides the extra clearance you need for the Al-KO hitch. Alternatively, you can ask a tow bar installer to fit a swan neck towball.

These are either fixed, removable or fold-away. The cost increases, in that order! The last two leave your car looking standard when not towing.

Towcar electrics are complicated. You can choose between

  • Simple, generic connections with relays for fridge and charging leads
  • Non-branded dedicated electrics which connect to the manufacturer's connections and may cancel both the car's reversing sensors and the otherwise dazzling, car rear fog lights
  • For maximum vehicle and van integration, a manufacturer's branded and dedicated electrics are best. These will not affect the car's warranty. You may even adapt things like ABS performance and ride-height, once you attach a caravan.

This last option will be the most expensive. But, it might be a wise choice if you have a new towcar that's still under warranty. According to your decision, the cost will vary from around £300 to £1000+.

As caravan dealers generally no longer do this work, speak to local, specialised towbar fitters or car dealers selling your vehicle brand. Of course, you can tick these on the options list when buying a new car, too.

Will your car electrics match the van?

All new vans come with a 13-pin plug for the 12-volt electrics. However, older towcars may feature twin 7-pin sockets. You have the choice between replacing the sockets or buying a 7-pin to 13-pin socket adapter. The adapter should work reasonably well but does mean you'll have extra 12-volt connections, which are potentially prone to failure.

Keep your towball grease-free

clean your towball

Many caravans come with a mechanical stabiliser. The stabiliser is a set of friction pads, which clamp tightly against either side of the towball to minimise unnecessary movement. With these, it is essential to keep the ball uncontaminated by oil, grease, rust or paint finishes.

New towballs need a good scrub with fine sandpaper and wire wool to remove any paint finish, which would also contaminate and damage the friction pads.

Finish off by wiping around with methylated spirit.

New number plate

new number plate for your caravan

Many dealers will have number plate-making facilities, but whether you leave them to do this or have it made in advance, is up to you.

You'll need your car's V5 registration document and some personal identification before Halfords, for example, will make the plate for you. Take these with you on collection day, if necessary.

How will you pay?

If you are paying cash for your van, you will have discussed how you are going to fund the balance. Check your debit card arrangement and account, and confirm you can pay by telephone or online by 'faster payments' bank transfer. There is often a maximum transfer of £10,000 per day. Some same-day transfers can cost around £25, so double-check.

How long will the 'handover' take?

Allow between one and two hours, depending on your recent experiences of caravanning. However familiar you are, vans are increasing in sophistication rapidly. And, it took us a while to get used to the electronic controls for air and water heating.

If there are two of you listening in, or even if you record it on a mobile phone (sound and video), that could help. Hopefully, an experienced staff member will guide you around, explaining how everything works and answering questions.

Check the caravan for problems

checking underneath the caravan for problems

Simultaneously, in spite of your natural excitement, try to look out for any damage and significant imperfections. These may need correcting before you leave, or later on by appointment.

We should mention as a note of caution, do not rely on everything in such a complex, hand-built unit to work the first time.

Hitching up is the crucial bit

hitching up your caravan

When you have completed the handover induction, the dealer staff will help you hitch up and fit your extension mirrors. You are now ready to roll. We strongly advise that unless you are confident about the seriously important hitching-on process, you insist on doing it yourself unaided, but under supervision.

Stopover

We recommend spending the first night or two near the dealership, before returning home. Staying nearby is a good precautionary measure. Ensure you arrive at the site in good time, in daylight, as pitching may take a little longer with the new outfit.

Some dealers offer a stopover close to the dealership so that you can spend a night there to give the caravan an in-depth once-over. Lowdhams has a pleasant spot on its estate, while Raymond James Caravans and Salop Leisure offer lovely campsites nearby.

Getting the loading balance right

caravan payload

Loading is super important. In brief, you should store heavier items near floor level to keep the centre of gravity low and to avoid the danger of things falling out of high cupboards.

To prevent gross changes in noseweight, the heaviest goods, an awning for example, which you can't fit into the car boot, are best positioned over or near the axle.

Any loose items need careful packing to prevent them from shifting in transit and causing damage.

Be particularly careful if your forward-facing top cupboards don't have 'positive, push-button catches'. If not if you have to do an emergency stop, it could propel their contents forwards onto the floor.

First arrival on site

If you are not experienced or confident in manoeuvring a caravan (which ideally needs practice in an ample open space), use the motor mover (if you have one) or push the van into position (with one person behind to check distances). Remember, it's easier and safer to push a van using the grab handles, rather than pull it.

Waste no time in fitting your security locks, as your insurance cover will depend on it. When connecting the mains lead, always handle a dead lead by connecting it to the supply post last; and when leaving, disconnect from the post first.

What if I have problems with my new van?

caravan problems

Severe problems including immediate water ingress with a new van are fortunately rare. But smaller, easier-to-solve defects are not unusual, and your first port of call is your supplying dealer.

In the event of suppliers having closed down or their lack of cooperation (both of which are extremely uncommon), you could try other dealers who sell the same caravan brand. If they are too busy with their customers, you should contact the caravan manufacturer.

Your contract is with the supplying dealer

Although your consumers' contract was with the supplying dealer, and not the manufacturer, it's the maker who offers the warranty. In the event of an unsatisfactory response from your dealership, try contacting the manufacturer.

If this fails to solve the problem, contact the credit card company through which (we hope) you paid your deposit. It is jointly responsible with your dealer for the performance of your new van and its compliance under the Consumer Rights Act, 2015.

This legislation covers goods and services and specifies your products should be 'as described', 'of merchantable quality' and 'durable'.

These descriptions mean they should last a 'reasonable' amount of time, taking into account their use. The time may well be a period longer than the manufacturer's guarantee.

You might bring this to the attention of the dealer and the credit card company, and if this does not produce immediate results, you could threaten them with arranging to pay for a repair elsewhere, then making a claim against them in the Small Claims Court. Legal action should be a last resort only.

In extreme and unusual circumstances, where it seems unlikely you can achieve a satisfactory result within a reasonable timescale, you have the right to reject the new caravan within 30 days. And, then return the caravan to the dealer for a full refund.

We would strongly advise against this dire course until you have taken professional advice from a solicitor or the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Got a small car? Don't worry

trailer tent

Don't worry if you conclude that your car is too light or underpowered to tow a mainstream caravan you want. There are many excellent compact caravans, trailer tents and folding caravans that may be compatible with your smaller car. See our online guide.

Back to "Practical Advice" Category

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Practical advice: Fitting a Truma gas filter

Preventing your caravan’s gas system from gumming up by fitting a Truma gas filter ...


Caravan security advice: stay secure with AL-KO

As winter approaches and daylight hours are fewer, our thoughts often turn to protecting our homes from ...